Into The Wild - Happiness Is Only Real When Shared


Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory Univeristy graduate who became fed up with society, traveled the country without any money, and made a trip to Alaska. If you plan on reading the book or watching the movie, please note that this article has spoilers.

Throughout the movie, I struggled with the idea of whether it is wise to go out and discover the "truth" in the wilderness all alone. The idea of isolation has been glorified as a concept in the American psyche ever since Thoreau and his experience at Walden Pond. Our culture is fascinated with the self-sufficent individual. My reaction to the individuality of our culture has been just the opposite. I long to share my life with people. I have always thought that God was experienced more in community than in a beautiful meadow alone. This movie made me question that. Would it be good for me to go and experience God all alone for forty days like Jesus did? Should I? As I sat on the couch watching this movie, a real wrestling match was taking place in my mind. Maybe in the end the healthy life is a combination of both isolation with God and a shared life with others.

At other times throughout the film, I envied Christopher and the community he experienced while traveling the nation without any money. Part of me wants that life. At times I have been ready to sell everything and hit the road. I want to share my life with others and have a good time just like he did. It seems like money, selfishness, and material goods get in the way of doing that. When I look around, it seems that the poor and their transparent selves seem to have better community than the rich and their acceptable facades. If I have to become poor to experience life more fully, then that is what I want to do. Then I struggled with the idea of my children. I do not want them to grow up poor. Deep in my core, there is apparently a clinging to the belief that money is essential to happiness or I would be fine with raising my children without much money and material possessions. This movie revealed that about me, and I just do not know what to do.

In the end, Christopher began to die. The movie makes it look like he was poisoned from eating poisonous seeds. Apparently, outdoor experts that know about the plants and the area he was in do not know if that is the real story. He might have just been dying of starvation and thought it was the result of the seeds. Whatever the reason, Christopher was dying alone in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Before he died, the movie and his writings seem to show that he began to understand what life was all about. It took going into Alaska, living by himself for over 100 days, and dying to figure it out. May we be able to learn the real meaning of life in time to enjoy it.

He inscribed in his book, "Happiness is only real when shared." This is a complete reversal of his previous thought, "You're wrong if you think the joy of life comes from human relationships." It was only when he was faced with death that he made the decision to forgive his parents, throw away his made up name, and take back his real name. There in that "magic bus," Christopher learned to forgive. He heeded the words of the old man that wanted to adopt him: "When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God's light shines on you."

This movie made me long for community, to share my life with people and get to know them. Every day, I need to strive to be what I was destined for. I will try to listen to people who need to share their hurts, wishes, excitements, or any other thing. I will look for ways to help those around me. What a tremendous story. I am blessed to have watched it. I am sad that Christopher died.

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:31-35 NIV).

Happiness is only real when shared. Let us share life.